Penn State University has released new restrictions on its Greek life in light of an ongoing criminal investigation of the Beta Theta Pi fraternity. A pledge recently suffered a fatal accident in the fraternity house and a new research study also shed light on disturbing statistics about the frat scene’s alcohol abuse, drug abuse and hazing patterns.

As is the case with most state universities, Penn State fraternities have private houses off campus so mandating laws is not an easy task for Penn’s administration. Damon Sims, Vice President for Student Affairs, addressed this in the following statement: “Our ability to influence outcomes among these young adults is profoundly limited…However, we no longer believe that vesting so much responsibility in the self-governance of these groups will produce positive outcomes. Today, Penn State is drawing a line and imposing critical changes. Enough is enough.”

Not only has Beta Theta Pi been permanently banned at Penn, but rush for all organizations has also been postponed from the fall to spring semesters. New social restrictions on underage drinking were put in place, parties during the day are now banned and a new “monitoring protocol” has been installed to more strictly enforce these new rules.

Greek life seems to be one of those American things that nobody understands or knows the purpose of, but—like great forces of nature—is an unavoidable, destructive force at many colleges and universities around the country.

For example, hazing is utterly cruel, pointless and horrifying, yet it is a phenomena that is perpetuated and practiced every year by its very own victims under the guise of “brotherhood” and “bonding.” As a sophomore now on the other side of rush, I have been repeatedly frustrated during conversations with my male counterparts who admit to having been psychologically strained during their hazing as freshmen, but who are now excited to be on the other side this year. Of course, hazing is illegal in almost every state and probably in every fraternity’s unique regulations. Beta Theta Pi’s Risk Management Policy reads as follows:

“No member shall permit, tolerate, encourage or participate in ‘drinking games’ or other activities that encourage excessive consumption of alcohol…No fraternity members, individually or collectively, shall purchase for, serve, or sell alcoholic beverages to minors (i.e., those under legal ‘drinking age’)…No chapter, colony, collegiate member or alumnus shall engage in hazing activities.”

After the death of a drunk underage pledge, it may be safe to assume that most regulations for Greek life organizations are basically peed on—and that is the point. Greek life is fun, which is why it is an ancient institution that has been adapted to remain current. However, its regulations are regularly and serially thrown out of the window. In their actual existence, sororities and fraternities offer social status, a vast social network and exclusive party invites. How could something so exciting—that anyone has the opportunity to join—turn into something so harmful?

This is the empty promise of Greek life. It institutionalizes social strata, provides titles and validates stereotypes. It supposedly turns this artificial society into a “come one, come all” fair playing field, where anybody is welcome to join as long as he or she is liked and feels comfortable in the group. This is a flawed vision. When taken seriously and manipulated so loosely, Greek life can be an agent of social hierarchy, a scapegoat for horrendously cruel acts and a playground for alcohol abuse, drug abuse, peer pressure and sexual misconduct.

Perhaps this is what bothers me most: that fraternity men and sorority women still have to sit through their chapter meetings and initiation rituals; they oftentimes read verses out of the Bible, pretending like their reality of drinking, partying and hazing does not exist.

And then a pledge died at Penn State and its administration finally had a glimpse into the dark, underground reality of Greek life that everyone who is, or has been, a part of a Greek organization pretends does not exist. This reality seems to be as dumb, permanent and threatening as death by hazing.

I am a part of a Panhellenic sorority myself, and I admit there are often times when I feel entirely helpless as far as changing the things about Greek life I know are toxic because the toxic aspects all happen under the radar. I have met a lot of incredible people through my involvement in my sorority. It is true that at times, my sorority proves to be an empowering network of friendly and bright women who hold each other up across many different platforms and situations. But I wonder—if Duke was just a little bigger, or if Greek life was taken a little more seriously on this campus—whether the social capital my sorority offers me and my sisters would have begun to define our relationships and social lives more seriously, as it does on many other campuses.

Greek life has the potential to be destructive in a society of young, insecure men and women. It gives people status they can wear in the form of Greek letters on their sweaters and caps, determines who can go to which parties and who can meet who. It also suppresses many poisonous societal problems under dumb, false pretenses of sisterhood and brotherhood, bonding, leadership and even philanthropy. The reality of fraternities and sororities on campuses is hilariously out of touch with the policies that govern most of those organizations. This is seen in the repeated accidents and violence that occur due to hazing and excessive drinking that supposedly are not happening, many of which take place in my average weekend as a sorority sister attending events that supposedly are not allowed.

With so many Americans and American institutions involved in Greek life, how do we all allow its laws and regulations to be so out of touch with reality? How do we expect to prevent any more deaths by continually lying to ourselves and to each other?

Daniela Flamini is a Trinity sophomore. Her column, “musings of an immigrant” runs on alternate Wednesdays.